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How to Understand the Russian Smile: When and Why Its Appropriate

How to Understand the Russian Smile: When and Why Its Appropriate

People often wonder why Russians smile so little. It seems strange to many people who expect a smile for every little thing, especially when working in the service industries. Everyone smiles at you and it is taken as a sign of acceptance, politeness, and is expected or even demanded. We often judge the quality of the service on a smile! Perhaps we are all smiling too often?

Russians have different beliefs about smiling

The Russians have a different idea about smiling and in many ways, it is more sincere and direct. The bottom line is that you never smile unless there is a genuine reason to do so. Here are some tips to understand when and how Russians put this into practice. This should help if you are planning a visit to Russia so that you understand what is really going on. It should also give you a better idea of understanding Russian people when you meet them.

Smiles are not necessary at work

Russians take work seriously and they feel there is no need to smile at passport control because they are getting on with their job. They do not know you, so why should they smile? Russian school children are often reprimanded for smiling by their teachers as it is interpreted as idling. Russian kids often hear their teacher saying, “What are you smiling at? Write!”

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Smiles are not used when driving

A British journalist living in Siberia was puzzled that Russians never acknowledged with a smile or thank you, when motorists stopped to let them cross the street. A Russian acquaintance asked him, “Why should you thank someone for not killing you?”

Smiles are used sparingly

If you go around Russia smiling at everyone and everything, Russians will probably think that you are a fool! You must have a good reason to smile, otherwise you may appear as being rather naïve and idiotic.

“The laugh without reason – is the sign of stupidity.” – Russian proverb

Smiles are important

Russians are at first impressed when they visit Europe or the USA because everyone is smiling at them! After a while, the awful truth sinks in because they realize there is nothing at all behind those smiles. No genuine friendship or real sincerity. They think all those smiles are wasted.

Smiles are a precious commodity

A Russian smiles when there is a real reason to do so. It may reflect a particularly happy moment, great fortune, or good news. They really do have something to smile about and smiles are highly valued.

Smiles must be genuine

When Russians see you smiling at them they immediately become uneasy. It is seen as a rather suspicious because they do not know you or they do not have any reason to rejoice. It can even be a negative feature and they may even think you are laughing at them. That is why they do not smile back!

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Smiles are not a sign of happiness

Russians do not feel that smiles are a genuine measure of how sullen or gloomy a person may feel. It goes much deeper than that. Judging a person’s character on a smile is really rather superficial.

Smiles are reserved for personal affection and friendship

Russians will smile at their friends and use it to express genuine affection or friendship. When you smile at a Russian and you have never met them, they may be puzzled and start wondering where or if you have met before.

Smiles must always be in context

You may think that an encouraging smile is priceless when someone is ill or facing enormous difficulties. Russians view these smiles as inappropriate in that sort of context. They are just out of place.

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Russian smiles are usually genuine, sincere and reserved for moments of affection, friendship and celebrations. Their smiles are telling you something important.

Let’s face it. Smiling may be interpreted and understood in a myriad of ways depending on cultural differences. Look at the British who have the so-called “stiff upper lip” or the Japanese who tend to cover their mouths when smiling and laughing. Psychologists have identified sixteen different types of smiles- you can see the full list here. Far too complicated – give me a genuine Russian smile any day!

“You can only hold a smile for so long, after that it’s just teeth.” – Chuck Palahniuk, Invisible Monsters

Featured photo credit: Veni/Flickr via flickr.com

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Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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Last Updated on January 18, 2019

7 Ways To Deal With Negative People

7 Ways To Deal With Negative People

Some people will have a rain cloud hanging over them, no matter what the weather is outside. Their negative attitude is toxic to your own moods, and you probably feel like there is little you can do about it.

But that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

If you want to effectively deal with negative people and be a champion of positivity, then your best route is to take definite action through some of the steps below.

1. Limit the time you spend with them.

First, let’s get this out of the way. You can be more positive than a cartoon sponge, but even your enthusiasm has a chance of being afflicted by the constant negativity of a friend.

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In fact, negativity has been proven to damage your health physically, making you vulnerable to high levels of stress and even cardiac disease. There’s no reason to get hurt because of someone else’s bad mood.

Though this may be a little tricky depending on your situation, working to spend slightly less time around negative people will keep your own spirits from slipping as well.

2. Speak up for yourself.

Don’t just absorb the comments that you are being bombarded with, especially if they are about you. It’s wise to be quick to listen and slow to speak, but being too quiet can give the person the impression that you are accepting what’s being said.

3. Don’t pretend that their behavior is “OK.”

This is an easy trap to fall into. Point out to the person that their constant negativity isn’t a good thing. We don’t want to do this because it’s far easier to let someone sit in their woes, and we’d rather just stay out of it.

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But if you want the best for this person, avoid giving the false impression that their negativity is normal.

4. Don’t make their problems your problems.

Though I consider empathy a gift, it can be a dangerous thing. When we hear the complaints of a friend or family member, we typically start to take on their burdens with them.

This is a bad habit to get into, especially if this is a person who is almost exclusively negative. These types of people are prone to embellishing and altering a story in order to gain sympathy.

Why else would they be sharing this with you?

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5. Change the subject.

When you suspect that a conversation is starting to take a turn for the negative, be a champion of positivity by changing the subject. Of course, you have to do this without ignoring what the other person said.

Acknowledge their comment, but move the conversation forward before the euphoric pleasure gained from complaining takes hold of either of you.

6. Talk about solutions, not problems.

Sometimes, changing the subject isn’t an option if you want to deal with negative people, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still be positive.

I know that when someone begins dumping complaints on me, I have a hard time knowing exactly what to say. The key is to measure your responses as solution-based.

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You can do this by asking questions like, “Well, how could this be resolved?” or, “How do you think they feel about it?”

Use discernment to find an appropriate response that will help your friend manage their perspectives.

7. Leave them behind.

Sadly, there are times when we have to move on without these friends, especially if you have exhausted your best efforts toward building a positive relationship.

If this person is a family member, you can still have a functioning relationship with them, of course, but you may still have to limit the influence they have over your wellbeing.

That being said, what are some steps you’ve taken to deal with negative people? Let us know in the comments.

You may also want to read: How to Stop the Negative Spin of Thoughts, Emotions and Actions.

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